Seeks More Funds for Visually Impaired Students
by T.S. Mills-Faraudo, San Mateo County Times, March 20,
For more articles like this
In front of a watchful audience of media, politicians and
educators Friday, 9-year-old Taylor Rebhahn recited a fictional
story she wrote about an elephant named Rose who needed someone
to care for her.
The fourth-grader didn't read her imaginative story from a piece
of paper in front of her or a computer screen.
Instead, her little fingers lightly touched Braille coming out
of a computer as she read about Rose's sad fate of being picked
up by zoo keepers.
Rebhahn is blind, yet she's still able to write her original
stories by using a machine called a BrailleNote that allows her
work to be entered into a computer as well as printed out in
During a tour of the County program in which Rebhahn is
enrolled, state Assemblyman and Speaker pro Tempore Leland Yee,
D-San Francisco, introduced legislation Friday that would
encourage state and school district officials to seek more funds
for blind and visually impaired students.
Yee got to see firsthand how students in the program use
high-tech Braille equipment in their classes.
The class also showed how the students calculate math problems
using an abacus. The device has rows of beads on it that the
students can move around to work out math problems.
Yee used this program, which is at Highlands Elementary School
in San Mateo, as a backdrop for his announcement because he sees
it as a good model for teaching these students.
Yee said he is shocked by the illiteracy rates for blind and
visually impaired students nationwide.
About 45 percent of individuals with severe visual impairment or
blindness have a high school diploma, compared with 80 percent
among full-sighted individuals, according to the California
Department of Social Services. Only 10 percent of school-age
children who are legally blind are able to use Braille as a
primary source of reading, according to the American Foundation
for the Blind. "It's an absolute disgrace how little dollars
we're spending on blind and visually impaired students," Yee
Three blind students and three visually impaired children are in
the program at Highlands.
For language arts, science and social studies, students in the
program are mainstreamed into the regular classes at Highlands.
The students stay in the program until the fifth grade, and then
they go through a process to determine their next steps, said
teacher Theresa Postello.
Students in the class hammed it up as Postello asked them to
tell the visitors a little bit about themselves.
"I like singers, and my favorite band is the Beach Boys," Rebahn
The opportunity to be the center of attention for a day was very
exciting for Rebhahn.
"I wish the governor would come here, too," she said. "I would
love to meet the governor."
back to the top ~
back to Breaking News
~ back to